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Ka Lamakū Micro-village Welcomes First Residents at Old Kona Airport Park

July 6, 2020

Thanks to an islandwide partnership, 15 Hawai’i Island residents said goodbye to the streets, and hello to a space of their own Wednesday.

They were the first group to move into Ka Lamakū, the new village of micro-shelters erected at Old Kona Airport Park, in response to calls for the county to provide shelter for the growing number of people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The village is the result of a partnership between the County of Hawaiʻi and HOPE Services, which will manage the units and assist guests in securing permanent housing. The County Fire Department, County Department of Parks and Recreation, State Department of Transportation, Tinguely Development, HPM Building Supply, and West Hawai‘i Rotary Clubs all played a role in construction of the micro units.

Volunteers from Kiwanis Club were also on site Wednesday, preparing hygiene kits and household supplies to welcome new guests. Also present were Youth With A Mission volunteers, who made a donation of shoes for the guests at Ka Lamakū.

HOPE Services Deputy Director of Operations, Ipo Morgan, who normally oversees day to day operations at The Friendly Place, plans to stay onsite at Ka Lamakū for at least the next month to ensure the new program’s success. She says the village provides much needed relief for people who have been forced from their homes by rising rents or loss of income. “People have been coming to us, because they have nowhere to go. It was heartbreaking to see more and more of our neighbors living in tents, unable to social distance or practice hygiene. This village restores their dignity.”

Morgan cautioned, however, that Ka Lamakū shouldn’t be viewed as a permanent solution to ending homelessness. “We’re so glad we can help this group of people, but we need to address the lack of affordable housing, or the cycle of evictions and homelessness will continue.”

Wealth inequality has become even starker since the pandemic hit, and despite a freeze on evictions, HOPE staff have fielded requests for assistance at more than double the rate of last year, as Hawaiʻi’s unemployment rate remains high.

The pandemic has also intensified the need to reduce crowding in shelters, with the CDC recommending that communities “identify additional temporary housing and shelter sites that are able to provide appropriate services, supplies, and staffing.” Advocates for people experiencing homelessness have hailed Ka Lamakū as a necessary measure to protect the community, as well as the right thing to do.

“We truly appreciate the community coming together in making this opportunity happen,” said Brandee Menino, CEO of HOPE Services Hawai’i.

A total of 18 units were constructed, and will remain in place until the County’s new project, Kukuiola, is built.

 

About HOPE Services Hawaiʻi
HOPE Services Hawai’i is an affiliate non-profit organization of the Roman Catholic Church, providing housing-focused services including outreach, emergency shelter and affordable housing with the intention of moving people into housing as quickly as possible and connecting them with the support that they need to stay housed forever.  If you or someone you know has been evicted or is experiencing homelessness, call the HOPE help line at 808-935-3050.